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Jul 26, 2010 9:58 AM by Sharlee Barriere

Can Americans Take Over Britian's BP?

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The man overseeing the much-maligned response
by BP PLC to the Gulf oil spill crisis is the likely choice to
replace gaffe-prone Tony Hayward to run the company and would
become the first American to ever head the oil giant.
A senior U.S. government official said Sunday that Hayward is on
his way out but didn't know who would be his successor. The
official was briefed on the decision last week and spoke on
condition of anonymity because an announcement had not been made.
BP said Monday that "no final decision" had been made about
management changes. The oil company said its board would meet
Monday evening, a day before it announces earnings for the second
quarter. Shares were up 2.2 percent at 407.6 pence ($6.31) in early
trading in London.
One of the most likely replacements would be Bob Dudley, BP's
managing director, who spent part of his boyhood in Mississippi and
has been running the day-to-day oil response since June. He would
be the first American to head BP PLC since it was founded as the
Anglo-Persian Oil Co. in 1909, according to a BP spokesman.
In television interviews Monday, Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass.,
who heads the subcommittee on energy and environment, welcomed news
that Hayward might be replaced. But he expressed caution about
Dudley, noting it was Dudley who said earlier this month that the
oil well could possibly be fixed by July 27. Work on relief wells
expected to permanently kill the well is not yet complete.
"I'm hopeful that Mr. Dudley will be more responsible, but a
total change in the culture of this company is necessary," Markey
told CBS' "Early Show."
There also has been speculation that BP could tap Iain Conn, a
Scot who runs BP's refining and marketing arm and also serves on
BP's board of directors. BP's board would have to approve a change
in company leadership.
To analysts and Gulf residents, it would be a welcome change for
a company that has been criticized as being out of touch with the
concerns of U.S. fishermen, tourists and residents affected by the
catastrophe.
"He's a very good delegator," Oppenheimer & Co. senior analyst
Fadel Gheit said of the 54-year-old Dudley.
It also helps that Dudley can identify with the people and the
region.
Dudley spent time growing up in Hattiesburg, Miss., an easy
drive from the coast. He spent two decades climbing the ranks at
Amoco Corp., which merged with BP, and lost out to Hayward on the
CEO's slot three years ago.
Dudley is viewed as more of a diplomat than Hayward, who angered
U.S. lawmakers with his refusal to answer many of their questions
during testimony in Washington on the spill. That was after
infuriating scores of frustrated Gulf residents by infamously
declaring "I'd like my life back," in May.
In his first week running the spill response, Dudley shuttled
between the Gulf and Washington, defended BP engineers after a
setback, toured a center where oil-covered turtles are treated and
enlisted the help of a politically connected relief expert.
He also has held a nationally broadcast town-hall style meeting
with Gulf residents and has been in daily contact with U.S.
government officials.
BP has not confirmed that Hayward is being replaced. Early
Sunday, company spokesman Toby Odone seemed to downplay media
speculation about the departure, saying he "remains BP's chief
executive, and he has the confidence of the board and senior
management."
It's been more than three months since an offshore drilling rig
operated by BP exploded off Louisiana on April 20, killing 11
workers and setting off the spill. A temporary plug has stopped oil
from gushing for more than a week now, but before that the busted
well spewed anywhere from 94 million to 184 million gallons into
the Gulf.
Since the explosion, Hayward made several highly publicized
gaffes. Among them: going to a yacht race while oil washed up on
Gulf shores, and uttering the now-infamous: "I'd like my life
back" line.
Gheit, the analyst, said it was too bad Hayward's career was
derailed by the spill, but "unfortunately he became a sacrificial
lamb in a politically charged world."
Dudley would be well-suited to take over, Gheit said, while
noting that it is never an easy time to instill new leadership in a
company.
"I'm not sure if removing Tony Hayward is going to throw BP's
problems away," Gheit said.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said BP's attitude about making
things right is more important than who is running it.
"BP, from I think everybody's perspective, made a very bad
mistake," he said. "I think what the world expects from BP is an
acknowledgment that something was done wrong. I think BP has a long
way to go to gain the trust of the people."
The company has already spent roughly $4 billion on its response
to the crisis. The final tally could be in the tens of billions of
dollars.
News that the CEO will depart came as no surprise to people
living along the Gulf.
Patrick Shay, 43, sat on a porch swing of his cottage in Grand
Isle on Sunday, his front yard filled with small, white crosses,
each bearing the name of sealife or ways of life the oil spill has
killed.
"He seems like a pretty self-absorbed person, so I'm not
surprised to hear he would walk away in the middle of all this,"
he said. "If anything it will help. They need to get him out of
the way and get this cleaned up."
David Duet, 62, of LaRose, La., filled his ice chest at the
grocery store in Grand Isle, where he brings his camper every
weekend despite the oil.
"I don't think he's directly responsible for the spill, but he
still had to answer for it," said Duet, who worked on oil rigs for
more than 22 years. "I can understand the time it took to cap it.
I know how hard things are out there."
Crews trying to plug the leaky well for good had to stop work
late last week because of the threat from Tropical Storm Bonnie,
but the effort was back on track as skies cleared Sunday. A drill
rig was expected to reconnect Monday to the relief tunnel that will
be used to pump in mud and cement to seal the well, and drilling
could resume in the next few days.
Crews trying to plug the leaky well for good had to stop work
late last week because of the threat from Tropical Storm Bonnie,
but the effort was back on track as skies cleared Sunday. A drill
rig was expected to reconnect to the relief tunnel that will be
used to pump in mud and cement to seal the well, and drilling could
resume in the next few days.
Completion of the relief well that is the best chance to
permanently stop the oil now looks possible by mid-August, but
retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government's point man for
the spill, said he wouldn't hesitate to order another evacuation
based on forecasts similar to the ones for Bonnie.

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